State Audit Reveals Gaps in Criminal Records Database Affect Background Checks in Texas

A new state audit in Texas has revealed that gaps in the state’s criminal records database may cause criminal background checks used to screen job applicants – including teachers, doctors, nurses and daycare employees – to fail to uncover arrest records, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. The audit also found that the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) Computerized Criminal History System is an unreliable source for complete information and that DPS should improve the timeliness and accuracy of its data.

According to the Star-Telegram, while Texas state law requires courts and prosecutors to submit information to the state within 30 days of receiving it, in 2009 prosecutors and courts failed to submit disposition records on about one of every four arrests, a slight improvement from a 2006 audit. In addition, the audit found:

  • In November 2010, 1,634 of 21,351 offenders – 7.65 percent – admitted to jail, prison, or probation by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not have corresponding prosecutor and court records in the DPS system.
  • County officials cannot submit some records because they lack required arrest incident numbers or state identification numbers (Tarrant County alone had 1,730 probation records that lacked the state identification number).
  • Computer problems may cause county officials to receive rejection or error notices when the DPS system does not accept records they submit.
  • The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure does not provide DPS with the ability to penalize prosecutor offices and courts for not submitting information.
  • Criminal history background checks provided by DPS do not include probation records.

The problem with gaps in criminal database records hindering background checks in Texas is not new. In a 2008 blog from Employment Screening Resources (ESR), ‘Four Years Later, the Texas Statewide Criminal Database is Still Full of Holes,’ ESR reported on an investigation by the Dallas Morning News done four years earlier concerning inadequacies in the statewide criminal database maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety. An earlier story from ESR ‘Texas Study Underscores Defects in Statewide and National Criminal Databases,’ cited the Morning News report that the Texas database was used over 3 million times a year, but only had 69 percent of the complete criminal histories records for 2002.

The Morning News revisited the story in August 2008 and found, essentially, that nothing had changed. For 2006, the database still only had 69% of the state’s criminal history. The story noted that only 106 out of Texas’ 254 counties reported electronically, and even then there appeared to be glitches or communication issues with various state law enforcement agencies. Other problems had to do with keeping trained personnel or officials in smaller jurisdictions forgetting to report the status of a case.

These stories underscore common issues for employers performing background checks where searches of criminal databases can be problematic.  Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a background check firm accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) – recommends that employers keep these problems in mind when utilizing criminal databases. The best practice is for all possible criminal “hits” on databases is to be reconfirmed at the county court level to insure the information is accurate, complete and up to date.

For more information about background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

About Employment Screening Resources (ESR):
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) literally wrote the book on background screening with “The Safe Hiring Manual” by ESR founder and CEO Lester Rosen. ESR streamlines the screening process and reduces administrative overhead though its proprietary technology solutions.  ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®), a distinction held by less than two percent of all screening firms. This important recognition was achieved by successfully passing a third party audit demonstrating compliance with the NAPBS Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program. By choosing an accredited screening firm like ESR, employers know they have selected an agency that meets the highest industry standards. For more information about ESR, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com.

Sources:
http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/09/29/3406283/database-gaps-hinder-texas-criminal.html.
http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2008/10/01/four-years-later-the-texas-statewide-criminal-database-is-still-full-of-holes/.
http://www.esrcheck.com/newsletter/archives/March_2005.php#T2.